When my nest was full and three daughters plus my husband joined me for dinner nearly every evening, most of our meals were home cooked. I enjoyed cooking and serving up fresh favorites to my family.
Now that the nest is empty except for my husband and me, I still like serving up fresh favorites. I don't, though, care to cook as often as I used to. We're just too busy for that (or too lazy sometimes, I admit). Ultimately, my husband and I usually end up ordering carry out of some form or another on many a night.
That meal plan may be tasty to our tongues but it's not all that healthy for our bodies, considering the abundant preservatives and processed ingredients in most restaurant meals. So I was pretty intrigued when I was given the opportunity to sample for free Michael Angelo's Gourmet Foods.
Michael Angelo's offers home-style, "Uncompromisingly Italian-style™" dishes made with absolutely no preservatives and minimal processing. The frozen meals, including Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Baked Ziti & Meatballs and Eggplant Parmesan, recently became available at Walmart in new sizes — 46 and 80 ounces for lasagna; 44 ounces for the ziti; and 44 and 80 ounces for the eggplant parmesan — that make it easy to provide home-cooked family meals without the hassle of cooking or the preservatives of carry out.
The Michael Angelo's Gourmet Foods meals seemed an ideal solution for empty nesters. And in sampling (for free) the Baked Ziti & Meatballs and the Lasagna with Meat Sauce, they turned out to be exactly that.
My husband and I first tried the 44-ounce size of Baked Ziti & Meatballs. The frozen meal baked up in less than an hour, just as the packaging noted. It went from this...
with no problem at all.
The meatballs tasted homemade, less commercially prepared than most frozen meatballs, and the pasta was perfectly al dente. The sauce was pleasantly flavored and the cheese was undoubtedly real cheese, though my husband and I agreed we would have enjoyed a wee bit more of both sauce and cheese.
Served with salad and Italian bread, it was a satisfying and wholesome meal that required no cooking skills and relatively little time. (Nothing like the 90+ minutes of many a frozen Italian family-size entree.)
A week later, we tried out the Lasagna with Meat Sauce. After a harried weekend, it was nice to have a meal to just pop in the oven, knowing — based on our experience with the ziti — that an authentic Italian meal would be out of the oven soon. The lasagna took less than an hour, in fact.
My husband and I dove right in and marveled at how tasty the lasagna was. We preferred it over the Ziti with Meatballs — if we were pressed for a favorite, we agreed. There was plenty of ricotta cheese, the beef and herbs tasted fresh, the noodles firm. My only complaints would be that mozzarella on top didn't melt as prettily as the packaging showed and the servings didn't stay firmly layered when dishing up the pasta. Perhaps letting the lasagna stand longer than the recommended 5 minutes after removing from the oven would help it stand firm when serving up squares of the dish.
Overall, we enjoyed both Michael Angelo's offerings. And if my husband were a tad more adventurous when it comes to food, I'm pretty sure we'd enjoy the Eggplant Parmesan as well. Of course, I could always bake that one up for myself and save the leftovers for later. Another thing that did impress me about both Michael Angelo's dishes is that the leftovers from both the ziti and the lasagna tasted just as good when reheated the next day. Which is a huge plus for empty nesters, who are sure to have leftovers from the generous sizes of Michael Angelo's meals.
Both the Lasagna with Meat Sauce (46 ounce) and the Baked Ziti & Meatballs (44 ounce) retailed at Walmart for right around $10 each. Find out more about the 30-year-old company and their wholesome products on the Michael Angelo's Gourmet Foods website.
Disclosure: I was provided the products free for review; opinions and anecdotes are my own.